Friday, September 6, 2013

North Carolina in the Civil War

North Carolina in the Civil War


During the American Civil War, North Carolina provided at least 125,000 soldiers to the Confederacy, and the Tar Heel State recruited more soldiers than any Southern state. More than 620,000 died in the Civil War and approximately 40,000 were North Carolinians. (Total Union and Confederate Civil War Killed and Mortally Wounded (Dead), With Numbers for Each Northern and Southern State: North Carolina Emphasis.) The greatest loss sustained by any regiment (North or South) during the Civil War was the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Infantry Regiment at Gettysburg. It sent more than 800 men into action and more than eighty percent were disabled.

During the Civil War, North Carolina suffered the greatest loss of life, the most casualties, than any other Southern state. As a result, during Reconstruction, the State was devastated. The population of widows and orphans boomed across the State, and the only relief and assistance was to pick yourself up and keep on going. There was, however, very little, if any, assistance for most citizens from the State government. Widows and children now tended the farm, since agriculture dominated the State, and the boys became men and the girls became women. The wounded, including mentally disabled from the scars of Civil War, were an additional crisis for the State of North Carolina. Subsequently, insane asylums were created across the State. The Tar Heels, as they were known, gradually recovered through the same "grit and stickability of their forefathers."

Road to Secession

"In the agitation that pervaded the South previous to secession, North Carolina preserved its usual conservative calmness of action."
The people of North Carolina, although profoundly stirred and keenly alive to the gravity of the impending crisis, were loath to leave the Union cemented by the blood of their fathers. That retrospectiveness which has always been one of their marked characteristics, did not desert them then. Even after seven of her sister States had adopted ordinances of secession, "her people solemnly declared" -- by the election of the 28th of February, 1861, -- "that they desired no convention even to consider the propriety of secession."

But after the newly-elected President's Springfield speech, after the widespread belief that the Federal government had attempted to reinforce Fort Sumter in the face of a promise to evacuate it, and especially after President Lincoln's requisition on the governor to furnish troops (Governor John Willis Ellis: A Reply to President Lincoln) for what Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, called "the wicked purpose of subduing sister Southern States," -- a requisition that, Governor Jackson, of Missouri, in a superflux of unlethargic adjectives, denounced as "illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical" -- there was a rapid change in the feelings of the people of North Carolina. Strong union sentiment was changed to a fixed determination to resist coercion by arms if necessary. So rapid was the movement of public events, and so rapid was the revolution in public sentiment, that "just three months after the State had refused even to consider the question of secession, a convention composed of almost entirely of men who thought it was the imperative duty of their State to withdraw from the Union was in secession in Raleigh." (Southern States Secede: Secession of the South History.)


On May 20th, a day sacred to her citizens in that it marked the eighty-six anniversary of the colonial Declaration of Independence of England, the fateful ordinance that severed relations with the Union was adopted:

We, the people of the State of North Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by the State of North Carolina in the Convention of 1789, whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified and adopted, and also, all acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly, ratifying and adopting amendments to the said Constitution, are hereby repealed, rescinded and abrogated.
We do further declare and ordain, That the union now subsisting between the State of North Carolina and the other States under the title of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of North Carolina is in the full possession and exercise of all those rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. [Ratified the 20th day of May, 1861.]
On April 13, 1861, Fort Sumter fell to South Carolina troops. President Lincoln, consequently, called for 75,000 troops to coerce and subdue the seceded states (Lincoln's Call For Troops). On April 15 the Lincoln administration demanded that North Carolina furnish two regiments for this undertaking.
On April 15, North Carolina Governor John Ellis promptly replied by telegram to President Abraham Lincoln and stated that "Your dispatch is received, and if genuine, which its extraordinary character leads me to doubt, I have to say in reply, that I regard the levy of troops made by the administration for the purpose of subjugating the states of the South, as a violation of the Constitution, and as a gross usurption of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina."
Zebulon Vance (right) arrived in Washington at the age 28 and was the youngest member of Congress and one of the strongest Southern supporters of the Union. In March of 1861, however, when indications reflected that the North Carolina legislature was going to vote for secession, Vance resigned his seat and returned home. Vance was soon elected as North Carolina's governor in 1862 and reelected in 1864. (North Carolina Governors.)
The young Vance was known throughout the Southern states as the "War Governor of the South," not because he was a war hawk, but because of his ability to wisely manage the state even during its most tumultuous hour. Many believed that the most remarkable Vance policy was his insistence of the rule of law in the midst of the devastation and confusion of Civil War. Vance had previously commanded the valiant 26th North Carolina Infantry.
Civil War
During the American Civil War, North Carolina provided at least 125,000 soldiers to the Confederacy, and the Tar Heel State recruited more soldiers than any Southern state. More than 620,000 died in the Civil War and approximately 40,000 were North Carolinians. (Total Union and Confederate Civil War Killed and Mortally Wounded (Dead), With Numbers for Each Northern and Southern State: North Carolina Emphasis.)
The Old North State provided 69 infantry regiments and 4 infantry battalions; 9 cavalry regiments and 9 cavalry battalions; 2 heavy artillery battalions, 4 artillery regiments, 3 light artillery battalions, and 4 light artillery batteries. Several North Carolina infantry regiments mustered 1,500 soldiers, while few regiments mustered as many as 1,800. Furthermore, North Carolina's sole legion, Thomas' Legion, mustered more than 2,500 soldiers, while the average Civil War regiment mustered 1,100 soldiers. Regarding the State's troops, A Guide to Military Organizations and Installations of North Carolina 1861-1865, explains the numerical designations according to branch of service and the nature and character of each unit's organization.
Approximately 10,000 white North Carolinians served the United States during the war, while more than 5,000 North Carolina African Americans joined the Union Army. These free blacks and escaped slaves served in segregated regiments led by white officers.
During campaigns, huge numbers of men and large quantities of equipment shifted and maneuvered across the landscape. Most North Carolina soldiers carried a haversack, an oilskin cloth, a blanket, a rifle, a bayonet, cartridges, percussion caps, a cartridge box, a drinking cup, and a canteen. Troops often marched twelve to fifteen miles a day. Seasoned soldiers soon learned to carry only essential items.
The following Major Civil War Campaigns, Expeditions, Operations, and Raids were fought on North Carolina soil:
Early in the war, "General Robert E. Lee was fearful that General Ambrose Burnside would find out the defenseless condition of North Carolina and move forward. Every night General Lee telegraphed: 'Any movement of the enemy in your front to-day?'"
At the close of 1862, only two regiments of infantry were left in North Carolina, the Fiftieth and Fifty-first, and the Union forces on the coast could, had they been apprised of the heavy movement of troops, "have swept without opposition over all the State. A people less brave and less patriotic would never have consented to incur such a risk with so strong an enemy at its doors. The governor exposed his own capital to save that of the Confederacy." At the close of the Civil War, consequently, North Carolina had "forty regiments in Virginia."
The legislature directed General James Green Martin, late in September, to provide winter clothing, shoes, etc., for the troops. The time was short and it was no small task, but he went about it with his usual energy. He organized a clothing factory in Raleigh, under the leadership of Captain Garrett; every mill in the State was made to furnish every yard of cloth that was possible; Captain A. Myers was sent through North Carolina, South Carolina and as far south as Savannah, Georgia, purchasing everything that was available for clothing the troops. The ladies came nobly to their assistance and furnished blankets, quilts, and whatever they could. Many carpets were torn up, and by the combined efforts of the ladies and the officers, these were lined with cotton and made into quilts. The troops of North Carolina were clothed the first winter of the war, if not exactly according to military regulations, at least in such a manner as to prevent much suffering. After this winter the State was in better condition to supply the wants of the troops.
Regarding the preparing, organizing, and mobilizing of North Carolina for the Civil War: "The man [James Green Martin] thus trusted was a one-armed veteran of the Mexican war, a rigid disciplinarian, thoroughly trained in office work, and not only systematic but original in his plans. The State has never fully appreciated, perhaps never known, the importance of the work done for it by this undemonstrative, thoroughly efficient officer." Words of Daniel Harvey Hill, Jr., author of Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865
The United States Arsenal at Fayetteville was also enlarged and machinery that had been removed from the captured United States armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), was installed there. This manufacturing complex became the second-largest source (after Richmond) of domestically produced arms in the Confederacy. In addition, there were rifle-manufacturing sites in Asheville and Guilford County. A large bayonet factory was established in Raleigh, and in Kenansville a private concern made swords, bayonets, and other war-related goods. North Carolina's entire textile production during the war was used for uniforms and other military supplies.
In January of 1863, the troops of North Carolina were disposed, so far as the records show, as follows: Thirty-two regiments and one battalion of infantry; two regiments of cavalry and three battalions were with General Robert E. Lee; under the command of General Kirby Smith, the Fifty-eighth, Colonel Palmer, the Sixty-fourth, Colonel Allen, and Fifth Cavalry Battalion, Captain S. W. English, were stationed at Big Creek gap, Tennessee; the Sixty-second regiment, Colonel Love, was guarding bridges near Knoxville; the Seventh Cavalry Battalion was in Carter County, TN.; Walker's Cavalry Battalion of Thomas' Legion was in Monroe County, TN.; the Twenty-ninth, Colonel Vance, and the Thirty-ninth, Colonel Coleman, were in General Bragg's army. In North Carolina, General Whiting was in charge of the defenses of Wilmington, with 9,913 officers and men. General S. D. French, in charge of the Department of North Carolina, had his forces stationed as follows: General Pettigrew's brigade at Magnolia; General N. G. Evans' South Carolina brigade at Kinston; General Daniel's brigade, General Davis' brigade, Maj. J. C. Haskell's four batteries, Colonel Bradford's four artillery companies, and Captain J. B. Starr's light battery at Goldsboro; the Forty-second regiment, Colonel George C. Gibbs, and Captain Dabney's heavy battery at Weldon; the Seventeenth regiment, Colonel W. F. Martin, at Hamilton; General B. H. Roberson and three regiments of cavalry at Kinston; Thomas' Legion in the mountains. The field returns for January show that the forces scattered over the State aggregated 31,442 men.

In an effort to alleviate the state of affairs at the opening of 1864, a force of magnitude was sent to North Carolina. General George Pickett, a well-known soldier of great zeal and valor, with a division of troops, advanced to the State to assist the forces already there.
The close of 1863 was gloomy enough in eastern North Carolina. Moore thus describes it: "The condition of eastern North Carolina grew hourly more deplorable. Frequent incursions of the enemy resulted in the destruction of property of all kinds. Especially were horses and mules objects of plunder. Pianos and other costly furniture were seized and sent North, while whole regiments of 'bummers' wantonly defaced and ruined the fairest homesteads in eager search for hidden treasure. The 'buffaloes,' in gangs of a dozen men, infested the swamps and made night hideous with their horrid visitations. They and their colored coadjutors, by all manner of inducements, enticed from the farms such of the negro men as were fitted for military duty....To the infinite and undying credit of the colored race, though the woods swarmed with negro men sent back on detailed duty for the purpose of enlisting their comrades in the Federal army, there were less acts of violence toward the helpless old men, women and children than could have been possibly expected under the circumstances."
General Lee said if Fort Fisher fell he could not subsist his army.
"A great point would be gained in any event by the effectual destruction of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad." United States Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan
On October 25, 1836, construction began on the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad to connect the port city of Wilmington with the state capital of Raleigh. In 1849 the North Carolina Railroad was created by act of the legislature to extend that railroad west to Greensboro, High Point, and Charlotte. During the Civil War the Wilmington-to-Raleigh stretch of the railroad would be vital to the Confederate war effort; supplies shipped into Wilmington would be moved by rail through Raleigh to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
After Fort Fisher was captured in early 1865, the city of Wilmington soon capitulated, placing the vital Wilmington to Richmond rail line in Union hands, thus denying Lee the ability to resupply his troops in Virginia, and the bloody Civil War would soon come to an end. (Expedition against Fort Fisher and Operations against Fort Fisher and Wilmington.)
In January 1865, after a failed attempt in December 1864, "The U.S. navy department was able to concentrate before Fort Fisher a larger force than had ever before assembled under one command in the history of the American navy--a total of nearly sixty vessels." (See North Carolina Coast and the American Civil War: Operations, Campaigns, and Expeditions.)
"All day and all night on the 13th and 14th of January 1865," says Confederate Colonel Lamb, "the Union fleet kept up a ceaseless and terrific bombardment....It was impossible to repair damage at night. No meals could be prepared for the exhausted garrison; the dead could not be buried without new casualties. Fully 200 had been killed during these two days, and only three or four of the land guns remained serviceable."
No effort of any importance seems to have been made by the commanding general, Braxton Bragg, to assist the doomed fort.
“Then the massive land forces approached nearer and nearer by pits and shelter, and Colonel Lamb, and all their officers and men fight for the important fort; frequently did they signal for the aid they sorely needed.”
General Whiting, a most gallant and noble soldier, and Colonel Lamb, a determined veteran and warrior, were both severely wounded. On the 15th of January, after exhausting every energy, Fort Fisher was surrendered. The Federal loss is stated at 1,445. The Confederate garrison lost about 500. Few more gallant defenses against such odds are recorded. General Whiting died shortly after in a Northern prison.
Western North Carolina spent much of the conflict fighting against both Union incursions, i.e. Stoneman's Cavalry Raid, and bushwhackers, e.g. Captain Goldman Bryson's Union Volunteers.
North Carolina soon witnessed that great Battle of Bentonville--the largest battle fought in North Carolina and the last full-scale Confederate offensive--and the location's Harper House served as a Union field hospital. (See Official Order of Final Surrendering Confederate Forces of the American Civil War.)
North Carolina furnished roughly one-sixth of the entire Confederate Army. And at the surrender at Appomattox, one-half of the muskets stacked were from North Carolina. The last charge of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee was made by North Carolina troops. The Old North State sent at least 125,000 soldiers into combat and more than 40,000 perished, which is roughly 1-in-3 or one-third of North Carolina’s army. North Carolina deaths were more than twice the percentage sustained by the soldiers from any other state. Roughly 6.5% of the total killed during the Civil War hailed from the Tar Heel State. North Carolina soldiers totaled a staggering 22% of all Confederate combat deaths (killed-in-action and mortally wounded). The South lost 25% of its military aged men, however, about 32% of North Carolina's combatants died. For every soldier killed in combat two died from disease. 12.5% of the entire Confederate Army that died from disease hailed from the Old North State. While 33 generals were North Carolinians, 9 were killed in battle (roughly 27% of the state's generals were killed-in-action). An estimated three-and-a-half million men (3,500,000) fought in the American Civil War and 620,000 perished, which is more than all of America's combined combat fatalities (includes combat statistics and fatalities for all American conflicts and wars). Diseases and Napoleonic Linear Tactics, consequently, were the contributing factors for the high casualties during the American Civil War.

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